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Jul 2 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That The Missing Israeli Teens Were Killed?

By at 1:17 pm


It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.

When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.

I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?” Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 7 2011

You Say Tomayto

By at 12:35 pm

My daughters are little aliens. At least they sound like it. My girls are at the stage where the words coming out of their still-forming mouths are caught somewhere between babytalk and the childish idiolects of kindergarten. They don’t talk like I do; indeed they don’t talk like anyone does. Yet.

But school peers will soon shape their helium-pronouncements into whatever is normal for their age and location — a location thousands of miles from where I was born and grew up. And, even though we live in the same country as their mother did, we are a thousand miles from her childhood, too. My daughters are going to grow up foreigners.

But, though it feels strange and dislocating, that’s normal. The ease of international mobility for my class and generation means that, where previously people have moved away from the vicissitudes of poverty, persecution and violence, my friends and family can move to the promises of opportunity, liberty and love. Where freedom allowed my parents to move around the country, the rootless global upper-middle-class move around the globe.

New York, Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, San Francisco and LA are just a few of the places that my friends from Leeds, Manchester, London, Hamburg Connecticut, and Utrecht have ended up. Each family has its own smattering of languages, accents and national loyalties. At least I can comfort myself that though my girls will end up saying “zeebra” not “zebra” they’ll at least have the same mother-tongue as me. But parents and children are separated by a generational gulf so, no matter what words they use, my daughters will always be a little bit alien.

Jul 14 2011

Deep Down, We’re All Toddlers

By at 10:20 am

Somtimes you just want what you want. My poor toddler doesn't know how to ask for it.

Over the past two weeks my son has mastered the art of walking (finally!) and temper tantrums (already?)  They actually go together quite seamlessly when he’s “toddling” past the bathroom for the billionth time that day exclaiming, “tee!” and after I tell him that we can’t brush our teeth a billion times a day he immediately collapses into a pile of limp baby mush and screams at the top of his lungs. That is, until he forgets why he’s upset and proceeds to eat a piece of lint off of the carpet.

He’s actually quite predictable, in a bipolar sort of way.

The only kind of cheese he will eat is Kraft American and only if it’s served at the beginning of a meal. It must be placed directly in his mouth and not on the tray or he’ll mush it up and throw it on the floor and if a different food is introduced before he’s done, he won’t eat any more cheese that day. When I put him in the bathtub he immediately relaxes and pees all over himself while proudly declaring “pooh-pooh!” (because right now, poop, farts, pee and penis are all “pooh-pooh” to him) and then asks to brush his teeth. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2011

The Sweet Sound of Sarcasm

By at 2:18 pm

"And then, it happened. R gave me a look that could have been lifted directly from Justine Bateman’s facial repertoire back when she was teenage sister Mallory on Family Ties, and said, 'Mommy, I was being sarcastic.'"

The proliferation of parenting tomes belies the truth that all parenting really comes down to one simple fact: the second you master how to handle one thing, something else will come right up and take its place.

You figure out how to put your kid to bed…and now it’s time for them to lose the bottle, so the whole routine is completely useless. You finally work out your schedule around the kid’s naps…suddenly, Junior doesn’t need naps anymore. It’s not really Murphy’s Law. After all, nothing is going wrong, per se. The only thing that’s “wrong” is your sense that you were, for however brief a moment, in control. Because you’re not. And you never were, and you never will be. And therein lies the thrill, and pain, of parenthood.

As I await the arrival of Kid Three, who is just as intransigent in utero as her two older brothers were once upon a time, child development in my home continues apace, as I learned from my 6-year-old, R.

Remembering that I needed to pay a bill online, I sat down at my computer. R materialized as though from nowhere (a tough thing to do, since the kid has the gentle footsteps of a herd of wildebeest in heat) virtually immediately: “Mommy, come look at something.”

“Give me a second,” I told him, trying to get to the right bill payment page.

“Okay,” he responded. He took a step closer to me. I could feel his hot breath in my face.

I turned to him. “Look,” I said. “When I say, ‘give me a second,’ that means, ‘go do something else and I will be with you as soon as I can.’”

R gave me an angelic, sweet smile. “Of course, Mommy! That’s no problem at all.”

Wow – no whining, no complaints – nice! “That’s really sweet of you,” I complimented him (in that whole “give positive reinforcement of good behavior” schtick we all know and love).

And then, it happened. R gave me a look that could have been lifted directly from Justine Bateman’s facial repertoire back when she was teenage sister Mallory on Family Ties, and said, “Mommy, I was being sarcastic.”

Let’s reiterate: the child is 6. He’s really super smart, admittedly, but he’s really only 6. The idea that the 6 year old would not only know how to properly use the word “sarcastic” (explained to him, in fairness, when he asked me to translate the title of the Peanuts classic, “Why Are Musicians So Sarcastic?” into Six Year Old(e) English), but would know how to employ its sharp edges, with all its eviscerating potential, is disturbing. Read the rest of this entry →


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